Luxury Socialism and the End of the Working Left
Who needs necessities, when the government can give you luxuries?
Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism
“Plan C is not ‘the organisation of the working classes’ nor do we see a necessity for one,” declares the leading Luxury Communist organization in the UK.
Luxury Communism isn’t for the working class. Plan C’s motto of “Luxury for All” could just as easily be the slogan for a new hotel or car, but actually encapsulates where the left is now. It isn’t fighting for necessities, but exploiting identity politics to divide up government luxuries.
America’s “Socialist Moment” would more accurately be called, “Luxury Socialism”.
Luxury Socialism has won the free college battle on the Democrat side and is pushing onward to Guaranteed Minimum Income or welfare-for-all. Deploying universal welfare during a period of huge job growth and record low unemployment isn’t a response to economic deprivation. It’s “Luxury for All”.
Luxury for All is the inevitable next step for a welfare state that is running out of things to cover. Who needs necessities, when the government can give you luxuries?
The massive wealth of a revived economy has to go somewhere. The manufactured homelessness crisis has swallowed billions, but there’s only so much money that the left can divert into its own infrastructure by exploiting the mentally ill. And the homeless are also less likely to vote.
Luxury Socialism will tackle the prosperity crisis and rally the left’s core bases of government workers, welfare lifers and college students by offering them what they really want, luxuries, not necessities.
Socialism’s main appeal isn’t to the working classes, but to the non-working classes. The ideal socialist candidate, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Julia Salazar, is a wealthy leftist who pretends to be poor. Cortez and Salazar, two Democratic Socialists of America candidates, both told fake stories of rising from poverty, even though both women grew up in a comfortably prosperous lifestyle, Cortez’s father was an architect and Salazar’s a commercial airline pilot, in order to appeal to gentrifying lefties in New York.
The paradox of wealthy lefties like Cortez and Salazar faking poverty to appeal to other wealthy lefties is the one that lies at the heart of the left. And Luxury Communism and Luxury Socialism dispense with it. And with the hypocrisy and lies, the fake biographies and imaginary hard luck stories that go with it.
If socialism is no longer about providing necessities to the oppressed, but luxuries to those who don’t want to work for them, faking poverty is no longer a pretext for leftist activism. Instead the new horror story is that of a lazy lefty activist who can’t get the thousand dollar smartphone that she wants.
Lazy lefties of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your fashion labels and sports cars.
The shift to Luxury Socialism means that the government doesn’t just have to provide necessities, but luxuries. Anyone who has seen the Caddies parked in front of housing projects and the two hundred dollar sneakers worn in check cashing stores that cater to the welfare crowd knows that it already does.
But that’s not enough.
The left traded race for class. But as minority groups rise economically, the equation between poverty and class grows shakier. Affirmative action extends welfare into the luxury arenas of government contracts, bank loans and top jobs. It’s hard to pretend that giving a millionaire another big Chicago municipal contract because of the color of his skin is about helping the poor or the underprivileged.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s father benefited from the luxury socialism of preferential government contracts. Her story of growing up as a poor girl in the Bronx may be a myth, but she did grow up on a government plantation. It was just a much more luxurious government subsidized plantation.
But the arguments of Luxury Socialism and Communism are much more ambitious than that.
The central Luxury Communism argument, that automation will eliminate most jobs and must be met with universal government subsidies, has been widely accepted among Democrats and even some Republicans. FALC or Fully Automated Luxury Communism springs from that same premise.
The difference is that at least it’s honest about what it wants. Luxury.
The old rhetoric and infrastructure of labor politics exists, but it has little to do with the working class. Unions have become a funding and organizing mechanism for lefty parties and consist largely of municipal employees, or employees of heavily government subsidized organizations and businesses.
Unions have become a mechanism for the left to feed money into its coffers by subsidizing the corrupt and broken infrastructure of health, education, basic municipal services and a few surviving national industries that could never make it on their own. The actual funding comes from taxpayers, either directly through taxes and fees, or indirectly, through the inflated prices attached to basic services.
An emergency room Band-Aid can cost thousands of dollars for the same reason that the Pentagon might pay thousands for a screw. Patients are similarly caught between contractors competing to defraud the government and each other in response to complex regulatory funding mechanisms. The only difference is that because medicine hasn’t been fully nationalized, they sometimes see the bill.
Most of the remaining rhetoric of labor politics, oppression, martyrdom and revolution, has been reappropriated by identity politics to serve everything from black nationalism to gay rights to Islamists. None of these are working class movements and have nothing to do with labor. But the working poor, once the lodestone of leftist politics, are now more likely to be denounced for their intolerance instead.
The industrial revolution is over. Capitalism won. But so did Socialism. The blend of the two used the newfound wealth as the basis for socialist experimentation. Think of California, squandering the wealth of the tech boom on one corrupt leftist boondoggle after another under a leftist uniparty state. Instead of building up a sustainable economy, a passing oligarchy finds a way to buy off the political authorities by financing what tech titans think are subsidies for all the poor people who keep getting underfoot.
Silicon Valley is already thinking in FALC terms. What’s to be done with all the people shut out by an automated economy? Subsidies, welfare, free this and free that, to be paid for by the stock market. The smart software will generate enough income to finance luxury Communism or at least Socialism, for all.
Call this fallacy, The End of Industry.
The End of Industry is embraced by people toting thousands of dollars of technology manufactured in Asia while being equally convinced that manufacturing is over. Automation, they insist, will eliminate all non-intellectual labor, even as China’s economy has boomed by doing all the dirty manufacturing work.
Despite their seeming contradictions, Luxury Communism, with its conviction that manufacturing jobs are doomed, springs from the same fallacy as Communism, with its conviction that factory workers lie at the center of all human endeavors. It’s the intellectual laziness of people who have never worked for a living, and have a deep and abiding horror of doing any kind of physical labor on an actual schedule.
The left romanticized workers as martyrs to capitalism, (only to then enslave them twice as hard under Communism), viewing them as exploited engines of production, while Luxury Communism believes that you can dispense with workers entirely if you automate everything, turn the automation of everything over to the government, and then wait for its notorious Midas Touch to give you the good life.
Despite the volumes of texts, the tons of theories and the endless plays, novels, movies and poems about the working class, the left never understood what workers actually do. And there’s never been a class of workers that the left romanticized, coal miners, factory workers, whose existence it didn’t seek to abolish. The left doesn’t love workers. It pities them for, unlike lefties, having to work for a living.
Luxury Communism is the logical conclusion of an intellectual lefty class that had spent its existence trying to assemble abstract theories of labor without ever putting them into practice by laboring.
It imagines unlimited production without labor under a government that can give you everything.
The left fell in love with the organization of the factory, while despising the idea of working in it. As its regulations pushed labor outsourcing to other countries and brought in automation, the luxury left has decided that products can be made by magic and dispensed by magic. Everything will come from the money tree. There will be luxuries for all and no one will ever have to work for a living. Ever again.
Just like Karl Marx and Bernie Sanders.